Name: Joey Wendle
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 190
How Acquired: Acquired in Dec. 2015 from the Cleveland Indians for Brandon Moss
Joey Wendle had the unenviable position of being a relatively little-known prospect traded for a fan favorite major leaguer last season. Despite that pressure, Wendle made a strong first impression in the Oakland A’s organization. Will 2016 be the year that he establishes himself in the big leagues?
The A’s acquired Wendle from the Cleveland Indians in December 2014 for popular and productive big league outfielder Brandon Moss. Moss was coming off of serious hip surgery, but many were still surprised the A’s weren’t able to net more than one, non-roster prospect in exchange for Moss. Wendle was one of the better prospects in the Indians’ system, but he wasn’t one of Cleveland’s top-five prospects and he was coming off of a season interrupted by surgery to repair a broken hamate bone.
Joey Wendle Stats
The scouting report on Wendle going into 2015 was that he was an offensive-minded second baseman with the potential to hit for some power and hit for average. The A’s viewed him as a potential long-term answer at a position where they have received very little offensive production for the past few years.
Wendle was a non-roster invitee to A’s big league camp last spring, and he made a solid first impression on his new organization. He was one of the final cuts from camp and he hit .282 in 39 at-bats during his time in big league camp. The A’s assigned Wendle to Triple-A Nashville to start the year, and he would spend the entire season with the Sounds.
Wendle got off to a strong start with Nashville, posting a .288/.341/.548 line in April. He struggled in May and hit for average – but not power – in June. At the All-Star break, Wendle was hitting only .257/.295/.393. After the break, Wendle went on a tear at the plate, batting .341/.369/.520. He finished the season with a .289/.323/.442 line and as a member of the All-PCL team.
Wendle filled up the statsheet in several categories. Not only did he hit for average, but he also reached double-digits in homeruns (10), stolen bases (12) and doubles (a Nashville-franchise record 42). He was the Sounds’ second-most productive offensive player behind veteran Jason Pridie. Despite those numbers, Wendle wasn’t called-up to Oakland in September, but he was added to the A’s 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
Although Wendle committed 16 errors at second, he impressed coaches and scouts with better range than he was advertised to have before the trade. He led all PCL second basemen in total chances per game and was solid on the turn in the double-play, as well. A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman believes that, in time, Wendle will be an asset with the glove at the major league level.
“He’s a real blue collar kind of worker. He’s better [defensively] than Eric Sogard was at the same point in his career,” Lieppman said. “When Sogard came over from San Diego, he had not yet developed obviously into the player that he is now. I think Wendle is ahead of where Sogard was at the same time and I think he is going to be that kind of defensive second baseman or better.”
Offensively, Wendle showed gap power and the ability to use the whole field with Nashville. Wendle hit both righties and lefties well, although the majority of his power came against right-handed pitchers. He was very aggressive with the Sounds, walking just 22 times and striking out 114 times in 137 games. Wendle came into the 2015 season with a career BB% of roughly 8%. It fell to 3.6% in 2015. He strike-out rate also rose by nearly three percentage points. Wendle saw fewer pitches per at-bat last season than he has in past season, as well. He will need to become more selectively aggressive to become an everyday player in the big leagues, says A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens.
“He’s actually probably a better athlete than the perception of him is out there,” Owens said. “You can just see that with his extra-base hits – he had eight or 10 triples to go along with the 40+ doubles and the 10 homers. He played a solid second base, good range.
“Now his next challenge will be, like most players, he will need to tighten that strike-zone some. From an on-base percentage standpoint, he needs to tighten that ‘zone, but I think he is very capable. Seeing him play this year, he hit well a lot of times against the better pitchers. His ‘zone was even tighter and more focused against the better guys in that league. I think he is capable of improving that walk-to-strike-out rate along with his tools. He will definitely play in the major leagues at some point. How he tightens that strike-zone will dictate what kind of player he can be.”
With the Indians, Wendle was injury-prone, never playing in more than 107 games in any one season. He was very durable with the Sounds last season, playing in a career-high number of games. His wrist wasn't an issue at any point in the season after requiring surgery in 2014. If he reaches his ceiling in the big leagues, Wendle projects to hit for average and above-average power for a second baseman while also adding some value on the bases and with the glove.
The A’s re-acquired veteran Jed Lowrie this off-season and Lowrie is currently penciled in as the A’s starting second baseman. Lowrie has a long injury history, however, and also can play shortstop and third base. In other words, an opportunity may open up at second base with the A’s at some point during the season. Wendle is limited to second base defensively, so he isn’t a strong candidate to win the A’s back-up infielder role this spring. However, if he has a good spring and gets off to a strong start in Nashville, he will be at the top of the list when the A’s have a need at second.